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How to adapt to the heat

When we go from an extremely cold climate to an extremely hot climate our body suffers from it: this is because although our body, like that of other mammals, has an internal temperature regulation system, it takes a few days to adapt and maintain constant internal temperature, which is generally 37 ° C, but can vary from one individual to another based on various factors, such as age (the elderly usually have a lower body temperature), sex, physical condition , the level of hormones, etc. In order to adapt to hot or low temperatures, the body needs a certain amount of energy and this is the reason why, for example, in cold climates, it is recommended to do physical activity to warm up: contracting the muscles produces energy and therefore heat. Compared to animals, however, man has also invented some technologies that help him deal with the peaks of humidity and temperature, such as clothing of particular innovative fabrics and space heating / cooling systems.

In case of extreme temperatures, both hot and cold, our body is subjected to intense efforts, which it often cannot manage and which in some cases lead to processes (heat stroke, hyperthermia, hypothermia, etc.) which can be even fatal.

According to some studies, the “ability of the body to react effectively to hot and cold climates also significantly affects some” physical “factors, such as the size and shape of the body.

Body size and shape

One of the first studies concerning this topic is that of Carl Bergmann, a German biologist who, studying the animals, noticed that in the areas with warm climates near the equator, most of the species have a smaller body than the living specimens in the colder regions. This can be explained simply for two reasons: first, the larger the body size, the greater the amount of heat produced; secondly, larger animals have a more compact body, with a smaller surface / volume ratio than small animals, therefore they disperse heat much more slowly. This theory is also applicable to man, or at least it was until other factors intervened, such as technology, clothing, immigration, etc .; for example, people living in cold regions generally have small and compact bodies to better withstand low temperatures. Another study conducted by Joel Allen examines the length of the limbs, therefore the shape of the body, analyzing how this affects the dispersion of heat. In fact, by observing the animals and populations that live in the warmer regions it is noted that they have limbs of greater length than those coming from cold regions and this is because by increasing the surface of the body, the heat is dispersed more quickly.

The effects of heat on the body

The moment we pass abruptly in a hot climate, our body implements a series of cooling mechanisms, such as sweat, to allow organs and other systems, which malfunction if overheated, to continue their activity efficiently . Although adaptation to the cold is more difficult for the human body, even in hot climates some obstacles are encountered especially in the presence of a high humidity. This is because there is water vapor in the air, sweat is more difficult to evaporate and remains on the skin, therefore the cooling effect that occurs when there is evaporation is lost. This explains why in dry climates, as in the desert, although the temperatures may be higher, the heat can be less affected than in humid tropical climates. However, even if sweating brings benefits to the body, it has its negative aspects to which we must pay close attention: through sweat the body loses water and minerals, which must be reintroduced into the body mainly by drinking water, eating fruits and vegetables and possibly taking supplements. The loss of salts through sweat is reduced over time when our body adapts to the hot temperature, which can usually happen in a few days or weeks. But the increase in sweating is not the only effect caused by the heat: blood pressure is lowered and the blood vessels dilate causing redness precisely because the blood, which carries the heat, approaches the surface of the skin to promote dispersion. Finally, the pace and heart rate also increase.

The risks of the heat

If not addressed correctly, the heat can involve risks, especially in the elderly, children and those who already suffer from some chronic pathologies of the heart, kidneys or those with pressure, breathing and circulation problems. All the changes made by the heat on our body can in fact cause tiredness, swelling and pain in the legs, especially for those suffering from circulation problems, dehydration and muscle cramps due to the loss of mineral salts. Exposure to excessive temperatures could also cause fainting and heat stroke.

Especially in the latter cases it is important to recognize the symptoms and act in a timely manner. Heat-related ailments can be manifested by a number of symptoms such as headache, excessive thirst, nausea, sweating blockage, confusional state, labored breathing, cramps and dizziness.

If you notice that someone is feeling bad, let him lie down in a cool and shady spot, wet his forehead and wrists and make him drink some water (not ice). Then, of course, alert the rescuers.

Medication and hot

If you take medications regularly, it is important that you know that some of them can interfere with your body’s temperature regulation systems and affect your perception of heat. Furthermore, some medicines can make the skin more sensitive to UVA / UVB rays. For example, those who suffer from hypertension and take diuretics lose more fluids and salts and this contributes to the dehydration of the body, but even simple antihistamines can be dangerous because they inhibit the sweating process. For this reason, if you take particular medications, it is essential to consult your doctor before leaving.

How to adapt the body to the heat

Each organism has its own characteristics therefore the adaptation time to heat varies from one individual to another. But if you go to a warm place it is important to help our body with this change, making sure that it gets used to the new temperature correctly and gradually.

First of all, start by exposing yourself to the sun for a couple of hours a day at the most, but don’t stand still: do some simple and mild physical activity like a walk, increasing the duration day by day. At the same time keep your body hydrated: drink more liquids, especially water and avoiding coffee and alcohol, in small sips at least every 15 minutes to encourage the decrease of the heart rhythm and retain a greater amount of mineral salts inside the body. It is also important to adopt a high sodium diet to replenish the salts lost during sweating.

Last, but not least, is clothing, which must consist of light clothing and light colors, preferably breathable fabrics.

Tips to protect yourself from the heat during the holiday

The precautions to protect yourself from the heat and the sun must be adopted for the entire period of the holiday, even once the body has adapted. For this reason it is important to continue keeping the body hydrated by drinking often, without ever waiting to be thirsty, because at that point it means that our body is already in the dehydration phase. Also avoid exposing yourself to the sun in the hottest hours, therefore from 11 in the morning to 16 and if you want to do physical activity, prefer the morning or evening hours. If possible try to stay in shady and ventilated places or under an umbrella and always wear a hat or a bandana. To lower the body temperature, a useful solution is to cool off with water, so when you have the opportunity, take a shower, a bath at the sea or lake, a dip in the pool, etc.

Also remember to protect your skin and eyes from harmful UVA / UVB rays with sunscreen and sunglasses.

If the temperatures are extreme and you have the opportunity to take refuge in a closed, ventilated or air-conditioned place, take advantage of it to give relief to the body, especially if there are children and the elderly with you, but be careful of excessive temperature changes. Opt for light, frequent meals with high sodium content and eat plenty of fruit and vegetables to combat dehydration; also pay attention to the preservation of food, especially fresh ones.

If you travel by car, avoid parking in the car when it is stationary in the sun, even for a few minutes, and never leave children, the elderly and pets inside.

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